Saturday, 28 February 2009


I went shopping today, as I didn't even have enough milk for a cup of coffee. Being Saturday, I got up fairly late and had a quick scan of the Phileleftheros paper until my stomach started growling "lunch" at me, so I got to the supermarket by about midday.

I think everyone else got up late and had a quick scan of the paper and went shopping with their stomachs nagging them, because they all appeared to be there too.
"There may be longer than usual delays at the checkout"

I don't tend to go to the supermarket at set times, so perhaps I just hit a Saturday lunchtime rush. But there could be lots of other reasons.

The Long Weekend

There's a long weekend to celebrate the start of Greek Orthodox Lent on Monday. But the place wasn't full of Greeks with trolleys full of kebabs, so I suspect that's not it.

The Weather

Maybe there's bad weather on the way. There were heavy rain and hail storms in Cyprus on Thursday and Friday. One man lost control of his car and was killed, whilst another was struck by lightening while picking vegetables. In Bee's part of the world they've also had storms, causing her to be temporarily absent from the Internet. Naturally I've no idea what they're predicting in Britain, so I panic-bought t some extra supplies of bottled water just in case, to supplement the 8 litres I already had in my flat.

The Economy

Maybe the credit crunch is over or something. Perhaps banks have dropped their interest rates and are lending people money to make them go out and shop and get in front of me in the queues. After all, various companies and banks were reporting profits the other day. In Cyprus.

Sex Marathons

I was reading about a Russian man who had a 12-hour non-stop
sex marathon with 2 women. They had bet them €5000 that he couldn't do it. Why him? Women never approach me with offers like that.

They reckon it was the 30 viagra pills he took (one packet) that actually caused his fatal heart attack shortly afterwards. What's this got to do with shopping? Well, if he had survived he would no doubt have rushed, starving, to the supermarket. Maybe all the extra people there today had just finished 12 hour marathons, possibly for charity (there was some kind of collection going on today, now I come to think of it). One tired-looking couple had two huge trolley loads of groceries between them. If I'd thought about it at the time I could have asked them.

Pay Day

Most of us got paid yesterday, so maybe people are simply going out to spend their money. However I refuse to believe this reason because it's far too prosaic.

Now I know what you're thinking. Would it really hurt me that much to take a peek at a British paper, or the UK news? The answer, of course, is that it would. Because then I'd know. And that would be no fun.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Inappropriate Card Day 2009

For the second year running, we celebrate Diesel's Inappropriate Card Day.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Wordy Wednesday - The Great Depression

False Economy

Apparently the economic crisis is much worse than I thought. You know that things are getting bad when a man can no longer afford to have a hobby.

A Chinese businessman was an avid collector - of women. In addition to a wife, he kept five mistresses in rent-free accomodation, and was paying each of them an allowance of £500 a month.

This is an expnsive hobby during a Depression, so he decided to limit himself to just one mistress. Plus the wife, of course. I'm sure you'll agree he was showing just the kind of restraint and financial prudence that our great world leaders are advocating.

But which one should he keep? He hired someone from a modelling agency to run a contest for the five women, where they would be judged on their looks, singing and drinking abilities would be judged. The news reports don't say whether they had to be able to sing and drink at the same time. Something that's harder than it looks.

Anyway, the first of the mistresses to be knocked out of the contest by China's answer to Simon Cowell offered to take the businessman and the four women for a drive to show that there were no hard feelings. Of course, her intention was to get revenge. She drove the car off a mountain road.

Unfortunately for her, she was the only one of them who was killed, but unfortunately for our businessman, not only have the other four mistresses dumped him, but his wife's divorcing him as well. It would no doubt have been cheaper for him to have just kept the five women.

Divine Endowment

Someone whose assets are certainly not in trouble is Salma Hayek. Bee hinted that there was a story involving her and her breasts, and so of course I had to do some research with the aim of entertaining and ediying my readers. I hope you appreciate the lengths I go to, and the hardships I endure.

The story turned out to be boring, and Ms Hayek's gifts are in any case a serious matter, not to be made light of. Apparently she was flat chested until she went on a pilgrimage with her mother and prayed to be, er, blessed.

Is there a God after all?

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Love in Bath

Today I'm going to talk about a large irascible German, the grandson of a Lancastrian laxative magnate, and we'll throw in some ballerinas for good measure.

Right, that's the ballerinas out of the way. I'm afraid that ballet leaves me completely unmoved. However, it's an unavoidable part of today's subject, as you'll see.

Here's the quick-tempered German.

George Handel (1685 - 1759). Some of my longer-standing readers will no doubt remember a previous post about him (Swearing in Eight Languages). He came to Britain in 1712 and stayed here, eventually becoming a British citizen. His former employer, the Prince of Hanover followed him over a couple of years later, when he got the job of King here and became George I.

Handel was a brilliant composer who wrote the music to lots of operas. Unfortunately since operas were foreign (the words were in Italian), and they were put on in theatres, which were considered sinful dens of iniquity, he had difficulty making a living. Theatres used to only be allowed to open a few days of the year, and all it took was some notable person to die, or a war, or whatever, and the government would close them out of respect.

Handel's other problem was that there was competition - another theatre on the same street used to put operas on. Even though Handel had the royal family going to his operas (which was considered a bit scandalous), they failed to make a profit.

So he turned to religion and wrote Oratorios instead, which are basically operas about Biblical stories where the singers don't dress up. He did write ballet, but I don't think I've listened to any of it.

Finally, here's a well-off Englishman
Sir Thomas Beecham, Bart, CH (1879 - 1961). His grandfather was a Lancastrian industrialist who made a fortune from laxatives ("Beecham's Pills Make All The Difference"), and he became one of the greatest conductors of his time.

He was also acquainted with royalty - if the following conversation from Wikipedia is to be believed, which apparently took place in his later years. He was talking to a woman whose name he couldn't remember, and asked her how she was:
"Oh, very well, but my brother has been rather ill lately."

"Ah, yes, your brother. I'm sorry to hear that. And, er, what is your brother doing at the moment?"

"Well... he's still King", replied Princess Mary.
I know how he felt. I often forget names and faces, too.

Anway, fast forward to the early 1990s, when I was a student. I used to buy a lot of recordings, usually on casette tape, and quite a few of them were Beecham's later orchestral recordings of Mozart, Haydn, Schubert and so on. One of them was an arrangement he made of some of Handel's music.

A lot of Handel's operas weren't really well known until they started to be recorded near then end of the 20th Century - remember that no-one had gone to the operas in the 18th Century, so Beecham had arranged some of this music as orchestral suites, a piano concerto, and ... a ballet. Called Love in Bath.

I don't know much about the ballet, but I don't think it's got anything to do with any kinky goings on in the tub. the Bath in question is this one:

These sort of arrangements aren't really rated very highly these days, since people can get the original operas on CD, but I listened to that tape until it wore out. And then I found they'd stopped selling it.

I haven't bought CDs for ages - I don't listen to much music these days. But I had a look on Amazon the other day and found they'd used Love in Bath as filler on one of Handel's oratorios, and immediately ordered it. Along with a CD of excellently transfered 78 recordings of his other Handel arrangements.

It arrived this morning, so I've been spending happy hours listening, and remembering the year I spent in as a student teacher in Lancaster. One day I'll write about that, I think. But right now, I must go and get Helena.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Round and Round

The World-famous Magic Roundabout in Swindon [Source]

FADKOG has been complaining about the number of roundabouts ("circles" in US English) in Britain. I don't know when she last graced these shores with her presence, but in recent years they have been multiplying.

Of course, I could complain about America's infamous four way stop intersections, but we'll let that pass. For the time being.

Imaginary Flagpoles

We have a government publication here called the "Highway Code". This describes how one should behave as a road user, though it isn't actually the law.

Excerpt from The Highway Code, 1931

I haven't looked at it since I learned to drive twenty years ago, but in those days there was the rule about the imaginary flagpole.

If two cars going in opposite directions both wish to turn right at a junction (remember this is like a left turn for those who drive on the wrong side of the road), instead of passing in front of each other, they should both pass behind, as if going round an imaginary flagpole situated in the centre of the junction.

My driving instructor informed me that "round here" people don't do this, they pass in front. He didn't explain what to do if I went anywhere else in the country. Things could get a little messy if the other driver tried to go round me and I didn't. At the very least I'd probably collide with an imaginary flagpole.

Luckily, most junctions have very well defined markings about where to go, and traffic lights, filters, and so on. Or they're roundabouts.


The rules for roundabouts are relatively simple. During the War, they were treated as highly classified military secrets, so that if we were invaded the enemy troops wouldn't know how to get past them and would probably just go round in circles. This was a tried and tested strategy, which had kept the likes of Napolean out, and us invader free since 1066 (Sadly for the Saxons, roundabouts were a Norman invention). It's why Hitler tried to invade Britain by air instead of landing ground forces.

Since we are now members of the EU along with all our natural enemies, the rules have been declassified and are in the public domain:


1. Go round in a clockwise direction.

2. Give way to traffic already on the roundabout.

3. Give way to traffic coming from your right.

4. If you wish to leave the exit after your entrance, signal left as you approach the roundabout.

5. If you wish to go round the roundabout more than 180 degrees or so, signal right as you approach the roundabout. Unless your exit is to your right, but is morally deemed to be straight on.

6. Once on the roundabout, signal left as you pass the exit before the one you wish to take.

In order to protect against the Boche getting hold of a copy of these, and to further confuse them, motorists were told in 1914 to disregard rules 4 - 6, and not to give away their intentions by indicating, and this practice has been maintained on roundabouts to the present day. Drivers are advised to try mind-reading, and a seventh rule has been added:

7. Don't hit anyone.

Of course the most famous and fascinating roundabout is not in Britain, but at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Mini Roundabouts

The mini roundabout was invented as part of an initiative by the country's planning authorities to stop motorists (and planning authorities) getting bored. The grand plan appears to be to replace all junctions which are too small to have traffic lights or real roundabouts with these things.

As their name suggests, they're easy to miss, and because they're so small most of the rules about priority tend to go out of the window since otherwise there's the real risk of a Mexican standoff where everyone is giving way to the driver on their right. In order to prevent this, rule 7 was amended to its present form.

7. At mini roundabouts, forget all other rules, put your foot down and try to get to your exit without hitting anyone.

This rule should be familiar to Americans, since it's the same one they use for the four way stop intersection.

Just in case you're not confused enough, here's an explanatory video. Sorry about the ropy sound.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Wordy Wednesday: Tetartophobia

As you know, this blog tries to bring you the very latest news about man's great progress onwards and upwards. Today, we look at a breakthrough of medical science.

Frustrated by the lack of progress on the great clean up of the planet, which should be getting rid of such menaces as arachnoids (or at least genetically engineering them to look less offensive - perhaps they could cross breed them with butterflies or ants), the medical boffins have decided to use another approach to tackle the problem, and have brought out a pill that cures phobias.

For people who's fears stop them functioning normal, I'm sure that this wil be a great help (unless they're suffering from Hapiphobia - fear of pills), though of course the pill works by messing with chemicals in your brain, which will probably have all sorts of side effects.

It has also been suggested that this could be used to make soldiers braver. Just think, if they'd had it during World War I, they could have made even more 18 year olds go "over the top" to their deaths. Brilliant. Actually, it may not have made much difference because they shot the ones that were scared or traumatised, but a pill would have been so much more scientific.

As you know, I'm not hugely keen on spiders, and this fear has led to the premature deaths of a handful of the buggers who have been rash enough to come into view in my flat. I don't think that I want to start taking mind changing pills for that.

Unfortunately a pill won't stop people coming up with ever more unlikely and silly "phobias", by gluing a few Greek words together, and preferably getting quoted in a psychiatric journal. A few of these appear at the end of the cited article.

I'd like to propose another (in additon to "hapiphobia" which I made up). It involves the very real fear of having to face a ticking clock, having to rack your brains, and finally to have to spew part of them out in front of the world in all their feebleness, before that clock ticks too far. I give you Tetartophobia, from the Greek for Wednesday...

Sunday, 15 February 2009

The Fatal Bean

I finished reading Agatha Christie's "Curtain", in which Hercule Poirot fights his final battle. Agatha Christie was always a great fan of poison, having worked in a dispensary as a young woman, and in this book the posion in question is physostigmine. As the book explains, this comes from the calabar bean, which comes from tropical Africa.Some of the native tribes used this bean to determine the guilt or innocence of persons accused of heinous crimes, such as murder, or witchcraft. The accused ate some of the beans, and if he or she died from the poison, then they were guilty. If instead they managed to throw up before it took effect, then they were acquitted.

There are obvious advantages to this form of justice - they must have saved a fortune on lawyers and jails, even if it wasn't very just.

In the book, the fatal poison is, appropriately enough, administered using the product of another deadly bean - coffee. I know that some of you have been advised to give it up on medical grounds (as opposed to coffee grounds), and you may be wondering what to do with any of the stuff that might be lying around your house. Well, wonder no more, because here is the latest in eco-tecnology... the printer that uses coffee instead of ink.
This printer won some kind of green award, and will be especially useful to those of you who have been forced to give up the evil deadly drink, replacing it with decaff, or vodka, or some such thing. Though having to prepare brew ups for your printer might be a little irksome.

Presumably the eco-deskjet doesn't take milk or sugar, and it doesn't say whether you can have colours. Other than brown. I'm also willing to bet that it's not very good and gets clogged up with dried coffee. After all, it's only a first attempt, and it will probably need development and productization. Which it won't get, since the printer companies presumably make most of their money selling ink cartridges. It would be cheaper for me to buy a new printer than buy replacement cartridges for my budget deskjet.

Another problem is that the cost of coffee will rise even higher, if people start pouring it into their printers as well as drinking it. Perhaps there might be better things to use. Blood springs to mind, as there are readily renewable sources close to hand, though you'd really have to be a serious eco warrior to buy a bloodjet.

Personally, I'm going to stick with ink. At least for the time being.

Friday, 13 February 2009

It's Geek Party Time

Today is one of those special anniversary days. This has nthing to do with Lincoln and Darwin's bicenteneries, but Unix/Linux fans all over the world will be partying later this evening. Why? Because at exactly 23:31:30 the Unix Time will be 1,234,567,890.

Unix Time counts the number of seconds since the Epoch. This great Epoch is not the birth of a religious leader, or the founding of an empire, but simply the start of 1970.

I'm not sure if there's any particularly good reason why they chose it, except that Unix was invented round about this time (in 1969), and so it was a reasonable place to start counting. I'm about 3 million seconds younger, so I'll be 1,234,567,890 seconds old sometime in mid-March. You become a billion seconds old while you're 31.

I won't be joining in the festivities - in fact I only remembered it was happening when I looked at one of the Greek Linux blogs. Of course, having a mathematical background, I don't really believe in these "magic" numbers, but I must admit that I might just be sad enough to run "date +%s" on my computer at the appropriate time.

Almost there...

If you feel like partying, there's a list of venues online. Just look for the groups of people holding a glass of champagne in one hand and a laptop in the other. This Unix date thing couldn't come at a better time. After all, none of them will have dates for tomorrow...

Update: In the end I wasn't sad enough, and missed the magic second. Google didn't, though, and had this banner up for a short period:

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Wordy Wednesday

Small Blizzard, Not Many Dead

Most people managed to get to work okay,
despite the adverse weather conditions.

I'm going to be very un-British and not talk much about the weather, despite the fact that we had a load of snow the other night. It didn't seem to affect traffic, though the pavements were slushy and slippy all day, so was a bit of an anti-climax, really.

How to Keep Looking Young

I went and got my haircut, since I wanted to be able to see again, and as usual I marvelled at how these professional tonsors are not only able to find grey hairs on my head (I can't, and I'm sure no-one else can see them), but they also manage to cut so many of them. By the time the guy was finished, I was surrounded by a sea of grey. Luckily he didn't cut any of the brown ones.

I'm not at all worried about going grey, especially since I can't see my hair (at least not now it's been cut). When it eventually happens, I'm sure that it will make me look even more distinguished. My only worry is that, combined with my youthful good looks, people will feel sorry for me that I've gone grey at such an early age.

"I Can Recommend the Cocaine"

On the recommendation of Chris, I spent £40 on the complete box set of Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes programmes (16 DVDs' worth). This was reduced from £120, so even though I have a stack of other DVDs I haven't watched, I thought it was a good idea to get it now.

Jeremy Brett's characterisation of Holmes is certainly a lot darker and less likeable than Basil Rathbone's, and is a lot closer to the original drug-addicted detective.

Now, for my next trick...

Life of Crime

And that's it for this fine, but rather cold Wordy Wednesday. What with all the Agatha Christie books (another three arrived yesterday), and Sherlock Holmes, I shall be spending the forseeable future immersed in murder...

Sunday, 8 February 2009

...And Everything in its Place

I've just finished reading a book. Agatha Christie's The Clocks, one of her later Poirot novels. I believe that she had become sick of writing them and had wanted to kill him off, but, like Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes, "public demand" insisted that she didn't. Which is probably why he's hardly in this one - he swans in near the end having checked old marriage records, therefore knowing something that none of the readers could ever have possibly worked out, and consequently he's managed to finger the culprits, unlike us. What a dirty rotten trick. No wonder Dame Agatha didn't like him.

Anyway, having got to the end, I put the book in it's place on the shelf. If you look closely at the picture, you will see that there are a lot of books with yellow bits top and bottom. At the top of each is a number, so I put those ones in numerical order.

The Clocks is the fifth yellow book from the left.

The numbering scheme is the publisher's, and has nothing to do with anything, so it occured to me that I ought to rearrange them into date of original publication. I found a list on the Agatha Christie website. There they recommend that you read her eighty books in this order, and they also give a few instances of pairs of books where reading one before the other might end up with spoilers.

I'm sure that very few people, having never read one of her novels in their lives, have started from the beginning. Maybe they do. The first one I read was And Then There Were None, which is 36th on the official list. Luckily it contains no spoilers.

I'm now about to embark on her very last novel - Curtain. This is the book where she finally killed Monsieur Poirot. I've decided not to wait until I've definitely read all of her Poirot novels, and certainly not until I've read all of her other books in Greek, which, of course, may not even be possible - they might not have published them all, and I might not live that long, having only read about 10% of them so far.

Interestingly, she wrote Curtain in 1940, and the idea was for it to be published postumously, altough in fact it actually came out a year or so before she died. I've only read two pages so far, and already there are references to The Mysterious Affair at Styles, something the Agatha Christie Website didn't warn me about. Through carelessness a few months ago, I also managed to learn the identity of the murderer on Wikipedia...

I'm doing rather better with CSI. Every single episode that I've watched of all three series has been in order. This is because I've never seen them on TV - I just watch the DVDs. I was rather put out when I found out that DVDs for some of the series come out before others - CSI: NY is about a year in front of CSI: Miami. This became a problem when they had a crossover story with Part I transmitted on CSI: Miami one day, and Part II CSI: NY later that week (at least, if you were watching them when they first came out in the US). I had to watch Part II first, and then wait months for Part I. To add insult to injury, a "Special Feature" of the relevant CSI: Miami box set was, you've guessed it, the Part II CSI: NY episode.

Sometimes there's nothing you can do. I was watching some episodes of a certain series which I can't see on TV or get on DVD, so was reliant on seeing some that had found their way onto the web. I knew that the suspicious character in one episode was about to become a member of the cast, since I'd seen some of the later ones.

Incidentally, the Greeks have a wonderful copy of CSI set in Greece. The only thing that's missing is the expensive graphics, and it doesn't really make any difference to the enjoyment factor. I hope they bring it out on DVD, then I'll be able to see all the episodes.

"CSI" - Greek Style

I had a look around, and found someone who puts multi-volume editions of books in "reverse order", because then the pages are all in the right order (since the first page is actually at the right hand side of the book). This made me feel a little less obsessive. A lot less obsessive, since those 8 Agatha Christie books are just about the only ones in any kind of logical sequence on my bookshelves, but am I still weird, or do other people try and follow things in the right order?

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Would-Be Woman Driver

Have you seen this story? They say "If at first you don't succeed", but one South Korean lady is taking this to extremes in her efforts to get a driving license. She has failed 771 times. Actually, that was yesterday, so it's probably 772 now, since she takes the test almost every working day.

To be fair, she hasn't actually got to the practical part of the test, because she keeps failing the theory. You'd have thought that by now she'd had all of the possible questions many times. And learned all of the signs.

She's spent $3000 so far on test fees, which is a real bargain, because if she had passed first time, she'd have shelled out far more buying, maintaining, insuring, taxing and fuelling a car over the last four years. In fact the government should be subsiding her, because by failing she's also helping the environment.

If she does ever pass the written exam, I pity the examiner who has to take her out on the road. Of course, she might well be an excellent driver, but I suspect the examiner will be checking his or her life insurance. And taking along spare underwear. Just in case.

I wonder what she'd be doing with her time if she wasn't sitting all these tests - taking flying lessons?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Wordy Wednesday - Wonders of the World

Prepare to be amazed...

Unless you've been living deep underwater for the past few days, you will no doubt have heard the news that in Google Earth, you can not only go into space, but now also undersea, to look at all the weird hidden parts of our planet.

This is only the beginning, of course. Soon we will hopefully be able to explore even more hidden Wonders of the World:

Google Handbag - The most ambitious of Google's projects will look inside the feminine Tardis that contains everything but the kitchen sink. Or will we find that in there too?

Google Attic - No, this isn't a special Greek edition. I'm referring to that space in your house where people rarely go. Although Lorne Spicer and co have been finding all sorts of hidden antiques and rubbish in Cash in the Attic, it's going to take Google's high technology to uncover this largely unexplored world.

Google Sewers - Have you ever wondered what happens to the various items that you flush away daily? Well, now you can follow them all the way through the pipework, processing plants and then back to your tap. A real revelation.

Google Fantastic Voyage - Miniature submarines will be placed into volunteer's bodies to map their insides. They'll have to find a younger replacement for Racquel Welch, herself in her heyday one of the wonders of the modern world.

Whilst we're waiting for the clever folks at Google to do all this, there are still lots of wonders on the surface of our planet. I love the "boat" on land in Hong Kong at 22o18'14.69"N, 114o11'23.84"E. Apparently, it's a shopping centre.

And here are some more. Incidentally, the video is best viewed full screen in HQ mode (move the mouse over the triangle at the bottom right whilst the video is playing and choose "HQ").

Monday, 2 February 2009

Hope You Are Well and Having Weather

In one of the "Jennings" books that I read as a child, Jennings (a young public-school pupil) writes a note to the Chief of Police, or some such personnage, beginning his missive with "I hope you are well and having weather."

There certainly seems to be a lot of it around. Weather, I mean. The Aimilia Hour had a report about an "Adventure" when Cyprus Airline's newest jet slid off the runway in snowy conditions whilst landing at London's Heathrow Airport. One of the passengers said the landing was "one of the smoothest", and breathlessly described the lack of panic and injuries. Exciting stuff. Of course, once they finally got off the plane and realised that they wouldn't be able to go anywhere by road, rail or tube, the panic probably did start...

Meanwhile the bad weather appears to be plaguing a large part of Europe. So much so that they didn't have time to show pictures from West Virginia, which has been on the news over the past few days.

Snow in the mountain regions of Cyprus this weekend.

Australia have exactly the opposite problem. The thermometer has been consistently above 40 degrees Celsius (over 104 American degrees), and they have had the worst forest fires for a long time.

But the worst weather story on tonight's news was the one from Tuvalu, which scientists reckon will be the first country to disappear entirely under the sea, probably in the next 30-40 years.

As a result of all this, I've decided that I won't complain too much about the few millimetres of snow we've had. And I hope that you're well. And not having too much weather. It's all the Groundhog's fault...

"Well, It's Groundhog Day.